Holidaying In Helsinki – Powered Only By Your Phone

This is amazing...

When it’s cold, grey and miserable at home and long-haul winter sun is just too expensive (sigh), it’s all about embracing winter with a fabulously frosty break.

Plus, a great way to curb travel cravings is with a gram-worthy weekend trip that won’t break the bank. According to, 44% of professionals would rather take lots of affordable holidays instead of one huge, expensive one. Makes total sense - much as we love the idea of holidaying like a celeb, several holidays for the same price is even better!

Hello Helsinki!

As well as being wonderfully wintry, we’d heard Helsinki is a lesser known ‘smart city’ with free wifi across the city and its own app (called Whim), which you can use to plan, book and pay in advance for all your travel in the city - buses, trains, taxis and even ferries and city bikes.

Travelling with just hand-luggage (so no room for hefty guidebooks) we decided to test out whether Helsinki was the high tech hub we’d always dreamed of. So, we found some cheap flights online, jumped onto the app and booked a room at hotel f6, right in the city centre. So far, so easy.

F6 was the hotel of dreams. Slap bang in the centre of town, it had the most incredible breakfast buffet we've had in years (third helpings, anyone?), a slick design and fabulous heated bathroom floors. Heaven!

Mobile: 1 / Real Life: 0

We were ready and raring to put this amazing app to the test but technology failed us pretty much straight away...

Mobile-first fails

Despite several attempts, we couldn't find the network to connect to the free city WiFi. No biggie, our data plan included Finland so we could still check in online.

But, what was worse, we then realised that Whim - the magical-travel-app-of-dreams - would only work if you had a Finnish mobile number. Which we didn’t. Fail.

Suomenlinna (attempt 1)

Not too disheartened, we decided to go old school. We’d heard epic things about Suomenlinna - an awesome UNESCO World Heritage sea fortress - so headed into town to jump on a ferry and check it out.

It didn’t go to plan. We queued behind a large group of tourists taking an agonising amount of time buying their tickets one by one instead of all together and missed the ferry by one minute. ONE MINUTE.

If our Helsinki travel app had worked we’d have skipped the queue and be on our merry way already.

Mobile: 0 / Real Life: 1

Uspenski Cathedral

The next ferry wasn’t for 40 minutes so a quick Google ("things near me now") showed we had just enough time to visit Uspenski Cathedral - said to be the largest Orthodox Church in Western Europe.

Mobile: 1 / Real Life: 0

Suomenlinna (attempt 2)

Attempt two: we managed to get our tickets from the machine, hop on a ferry and huddled inside watching tiny islands, some with quaint houses balanced on top of them, pass by the window as the rain poured down.

It was oh so atmospheric - until we had to get off the ferry and brave the rain ourselves. The fortress, with its historic cannons and crumbling monuments, was stunning but rather spooky against the gloomy skyline.

The rain showed no signs of stopping and by the time we arrived back into the city, we were frozen to the bone and looked like a pair of drowned rats.

Mobile: 0 / Real Life: 1

Warming up in Moominvalley

It would be rude to visit Finland - home of the Moomins - without a stop at the Moomin cafe. Snuggled up inside with a hot chocolate and a pastry was the best way to dry out and avoid the persistent drizzle outside.

Mobile: 0 / Real Life: 1

Winterworld Helsinki

With only a couple of days in the capital, we sadly didn’t have time to indulge the big kids in us and get to Lapland. So we were delighted that Helsinki can bring Lapland to you at Winterworld: a theme-park with all the wintry wonderfulness of Lapland (sledding, skiing, husky rides and more!).

The wonders of the internet saved us from a wasted afternoon when we double checked the website before leaving to realise it’s not open to the general public between September and April. Phew.

Mobile: 1 / Real Life: 0

Saturday night = sauna time

The best thing about visiting somewhere as cold as Finland is that the locals have the most brilliant ways of warming up. Forget traipsing around a city you don't know freezing your nuts off on a Saturday night - in Helsinki, the place to be is snug at the sauna.

At Löyly (after asking several people we still have no clue how to pronounce it), we grabbed a glass of fizz (yes, the sauna has its own bar!) and found a cosy spot by the fire. When we felt like some more intense heat, we could nip into the searing sauna to sweat it out.

Obviously, our blissful sauna visit wouldn't have been complete if we hadn't snuck in our phones at the end for some quick #humblebrag posts...

Mobile: 0 / Real Life: 1


In Finland, it’s customary to cool off after the steamy sauna with a cold shower or - if you’re brave af - a bracing dip in an icy pool. At Löyly, there’s a ladder straight into the sea. Brrrr.

I hate (hate, HATE) the cold so I'd been dreading this icy nightmare all day. Luckily, the ladders to the sea are closed off at night so we managed to avoid the cold water torture without looking like total wimps.

Mobile: 0 / Real Life: 1

Kallio bar crawl

We were told Kallio is the best area for nightlife so what better place for an impromptu bar crawl? With bars lining the streets we were like kids in a sweetshop. With so many options, there was no need to look up the most popular bars as we could just wander into whichever ones looked best.

Mobile: 0 / Real Life: 1

Munch on some super Superfoods

Finland is, basically, the home to Superfoods. You won’t need an app to find the plentiful blueberries, rye bread, cloudberries, bilberries, lingonberries and loads of other types of berries you’ve probably never heard of. Healthy noms? Yes perlease!

Mobile: 0 / Real Life: 1

The Verdict

Mobile: 3 / Real Life: 7

So maybe Helsinki wasn’t the ‘smart’ city we’d dreamed off but we realised wifi isn’t the be all and end all. Yes, tech is revolutionising the way we travel and making it more seamless in many ways. But when it doesn't work - because there will be times when it fails us - there's no need to freak out. People had awesome holidays long before the Internet was invented (they just couldn’t humblebrag on social media)!

'By Melissa Hobson'

'Melissa stayed at Hotel F6, Helsinki, courtesy of offers a diverse range of self-catering apartments, hotels, chalets, houseboats and B&Bs that can be easily booked online. To book, visit:'

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